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Qantas retrofits first plane for Viasat international Wi-Fi

written by Jake Nelson | April 23, 2024

VH-EBN is the first Qantas wide-body retrofitted with Viasat antennae for international Wi-Fi connectivity. (Image: Victor Pody)

Qantas has taken the first step towards the rollout of its international Viasat Wi-Fi connectivity.

VH-EBN (pictured) is the first of Qantas’ A330-200LR aircraft to be upgraded with Viasat-capable Wi-Fi antennae and is expected to finish its three-week retrofitting this week. The remainder of Qantas’ international wide-body fleet will be progressively refitted over the next couple of years.

Viasat will allow access to “fast and free” Wi-Fi across the entire length of an international route, whereas currently Wi-Fi is only available on Qantas domestic flights and on international flights while over Australia and in range of NBN Co’s SkyMuster satellites.

Qantas’ eight A330-200LRs, which primarily operate in Asia and the United States, will be the first aircraft type to have Viasat capability installed, which the airline says will be fast enough to stream movies, TV shows and live sports to users’ devices.

The Flying Kangaroo expects all its A330-200s will finish their retrofit by the end of this year, with the existing B787, A380, and A330-300 fleets to follow starting in 2025; new A350 and 787 planes will have Viasat connectivity pre-installed on arrival. The service is set to be progressively switched on from the end of 2024.

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Qantas says customers on VH-EBN and other A330-200s will be able to access Wi-Fi across the whole length of Asia flights starting later this year, when ViaSat expands its network to cover South-East Asia, while Jetstar’s 787-8 aircraft will offer international Wi-Fi capability following their upcoming cabin refresh.

The carrier has faced criticism from customers for being one of the last major airlines not to provide Wi-Fi on long-haul flights, despite flying some of the longest services in the world.

“We know that staying connected is important to customers on international flights, and we’ve deliberately waited for the same high-speed connection we use domestically to be available on our overseas routes,” said Qantas Group CEO Vanessa Hudson earlier this year.

Qantas has offered Wi-Fi on domestic flights since 2017, with the service first coming to 737-800s before expanding to A330s.

Virgin Australia and Rex have since launched their own inflight Wi-Fi services, while Bonza has Wi-Fi connectivity only for its own entertainment and menu offerings.

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